Thursday, April 19, 2018

This is A Limited Time Offer

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

How many times have you heard, “This is a limited time offer so get yours today”! Marketing experts know the odds of you making a purchase are greater if they can get you to act immediately. Any delay increases the odds of a missed sale on their part. So they press the urgency of the decision by limiting the offer with time. I believe that statement is not only true about a commercial offering but about everything in life. Why do I say that?

Most of us can look back and see a missed opportunity. If we are truthful with ourselves we can also see the reason for the missed opportunity the majority of the time is procrastination. I can remember some years back seeing an author on TV and thinking I need to contact him for an interview and article in Southern Writers Magazine. Instead of doing it right away I delayed, I considered myself busy and eventually the urgency of the opportunity left me entirely. I hadn’t realized it had indeed been a limited time offer. I had failed to follow up on my gut instinct to make the contact. I seldom do that but in this case I was guilty. So what happens to those limited time offers?

In this case there is a good ending. I walked into our Writers Group one day and there sat this author. He was a new member and was introduced by one of our contributors to Southern Writers Magazine because she was writing an article about him and his books he had written. I was thrilled then I was stricken with this hard lesson. This offer like some many others is indeed a limited time offer but it is a limited time offer only to the one being presented to it at the time. I honestly believe if you refuse or ignore the offer, the opportunity as it is meant to be, will be offered elsewhere.

We never know how great the opportunity may be unless we follow it through. I have a friend that was studying under a college professor and had earned her certification as a Certified Professional Organizer. The professor’s work had drawn a lot of national attention and a documentary was done involving the professor and his assistants work. My friend was included and was so excited to be a part of the opportunity. Once the documentary hit the airwaves it was very successful and a series was offered. My friend wasn’t sure about being a part of it so she passed. Another assistant took her spot. This missed opportunity became the TV hit series Hoarders. She and her professor were apparently on the cutting edge of the study of this terrible disease. The opportunity would indeed have been lucrative but also it would have been a chance to help many people and their families.  

So what should we do? I like to follow these three simple steps:
·         Be aware and open to any and all opportunities presented. You never know where they could lead.
·         Expect good things to come from these opportunities. Should they take a turn for the worse you can retreat gracefully.
·         Remember this opportunity could and very well will lead to the next great opportunity. Be open and aware of that as well.
·         No regrets! Don’t dwell on lost opportunities. We all have had them. Be on the watch for the next one and it will come.
·         And remember…. “This is a limited time offer so get yours today”!    


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Poetry of Activism We Witness

By Sara M. Robinson

I’ve been asked by many friends and associates why they haven’t seen any activist poetry from me. How do I write about current events? Or will I write about current events? Using poetry, I remarked that this is a very good and timely question. I struggled to provide an adequate answer, however. My hesitation is based on the major stumbling block for me: Where in the world would I start?

To write about world events and our own home country events is a challenge. We are compelled (theoretically, I think) as poets to be the witnesses of our surroundings then write about events in creative ways that provide thought provocation for our readers.

In a future Southern Writers Magazine column, titled “The Poetry of Witness,” I credit the amazing Carolyn Forché with coining that term. She describes in her writings what she sees as inequities of life around her. Another greatly admired poet, is Nikki Giovanni. Her memorable convocation after the Virginia Tech massacre of 2017 was and remains a powerful poetic statement and reminder about our history. 

So, how does all this come back to me? For one thing, as a poet, I constantly remind myself to be observant of all I can see. I take notes in my faithful companion journal. I talk to people and engage them to talk. One of my greatest pleasures is meeting weekly with senior citizen residents at a local retirement community. I use poetry from lots of sources to engage my attendees in conversation about their feelings and impressions. This is activism, using poetry as a “tool” to engage what I see as elderly folks wanting to stay relevant. Many of our weekly meetings inspire me to write poetry about the process of aging and the longevity of love. Often, I write poems for some of the attendees, to mark a birthday or some special event. Sometimes I’ve written poems as eulogy when the group has lost a member. In this way I suppose I have witnessed.

Now, back to the original question. While I may not be currently writing about politics or world events, I believe I write about life. I am a witness to life around me, and I use my poetry to advocate the beauty of living and the respect of aging; and lastly the hope I have gained wisdom of language to express all this in remarkable ways. A key component of my writing is to the creative use of language. After all, it is the basis for all that is human. Without language, we could only witness, we could not share.
Sara M. Robinson, award-winning poet, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, is poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. In addition to publication in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), and Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017); journals: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, and Poetica, she is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013), and Stones for Words (2014). Her latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, released in February 2016, was a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Haunted Hero

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

A good protagonist has issues. No matter how strong and resilient they may be, a solid hero comes with baggage.

When we speak of emotional baggage we generally think of it negatively. For the storyteller, however, it's a favorite device to give the hero depth. The basic plot will throw challenges their way, but it's the inner conflict they themselves bring to the story that can create some of the most intriguing and relatable tension.

In a popular film that's out right now (don't worry, I don't do spoilers), a girl blames herself for a family member's death. Because we observe the incident, it barely needs elaboration. Hardly anything is said of it, but we understand innately what her thought process must be as future dangers present themselves.

The sort of things that haunt our hero can involve any brand of turmoil: death, guilt, abandonment, shame, rejection, you name it. The cause of their self-torture may take place within the action of the story itself, of it may be expressed in a reveal after much of the story has taken place. The latter method is a handy way to pique the reader's curiosity if they are given clues along the way suggesting there is more to the hero than meets the eye. Ideally, it will relate in some way to the plot itself so that they can gain some victory over it as part of their ultimate arc.

Baggage is not only good for the protagonist, but it makes for a more fascinating antagonist as well. Most of us know that Batman wouldn't have become a caped crusader had it not been for a tragedy in his youth. But let's not forget that The Joker also has a troubled past that he considers to be a valid excuse for his mayhem.

Is baggage always bad? Not necessarily. Writer Hope Alcocer shares this brilliant explanation: "Behind every dancer there's someone that broke her, a song that moved her, a moment that inspired her, and a dance floor that healed her." The emotional weight that we lug around makes us who we are for all of life's ups and downs.

Before our heroes embark on whatever quest we send them on, the trip is certain to be more interesting if we remember to pack some believable baggage for their hero's journey.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Lost Art of Reading

By Leslie Hachtel

Apparently, a lot of people don't read anymore. And they boast about it as if it is some kind of accomplishment. I find that hard to understand.

I cannot fathom why people would rob themselves of the pleasure of reading a good book.

The usual reason is: I don't have time. Two things about that are true. One, there are never enough hours in the day and two, we manage to make time for the important things. And I happen to believe that reading is just as vital to life as anything else. Certainly worth fifteen or twenty minutes a day.

I generally read when I go to bed. It takes my mind off the stresses of the day and I can go to sleep thinking about things other than my everyday challenges. I can 'meet' and 'hang out' with interesting people, go to exotic places, time travel, experience the wonders of the world having never left the cozy cocoon of my bed. I can watch conflict and resolution and hug myself with joy at the happily ever after.

When did we lose the simple pleasure of reading? Of course, I think the answer is technology. As fabulous as it is (and as I write this on my computer, I can certainly appreciate it), we are losing much. We don't talk to each other anymore. We text, we scroll through our phones, we post on social media. But we are losing the art of conversation. And with information so readily available, we don't need to take time out for updates, since so much is fed to us in immediate and real time. And that worries me. I miss the "good old days" when we would sit with our friends and actually socialize by talking to each other. And along with that personal loss, many also gave up just reading a book. Sitting quietly with no email, no Facebook, no Twitter.

Now I'm not saying give up social media or stop playing those games. I'm just advocating there is room for more. And the thing about reading—once you start doing it, I think you'll find it hard to stop.

As a writer, I have a special interest in readers. But as a reader, I would love everyone to share in the happiness of just reading.
Leslie Hachtel was born in Ohio, raised in New York and has been a gypsy most of her adult life.  Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences. However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. She sold an episode of a TV show, had a screenplay optioned and has so far produced ten novels, including seven historical and three romantic suspense, including "The Dance Series", "Payback" and "Once Upon a Tablecloth". Leslie lives in Cordova, Tennessee with a fabulously supportive engineer husband and her writing buddy, Jakita, a terrier.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Power of the Notebook

By Joy Ross Davis

I have to admit that I am a notebook hoarder. There’s nothing I love more than new brightly colored notebooks, but not because of the color. I love them because each one holds possibilities. For me, a new notebook means a new novel.

My most recently-completed novel began three years ago as I sat at my breakfast nook one morning having a cup of coffee. I began to see images of people, images of places—familiar places—and though I didn’t know the people, I kept seeing them until I’d given each one an identity. In my notebook, I jotted down names and physical characteristics. I wrote little snippets about the town where they lived in Ireland.  

From the images that I saw, I knew the time frame must be in the early 1900s. One particular image captured me more than the others. It showed a young woman drowning in the waters of a great body of water, and it brought to mind my fascination with the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, yet I had no idea how a young Irish woman would be sailing on the great ship, and while research provided me with facts, I had to keep searching for personal accounts of the incident.

My notebook began to take on page after page of notes, but I hadn’t yet begun a story. And what was the point of all the notes if I couldn’t come up with a story? But then, most of my works have begun this way. I see the same images repeatedly, and then I begin to record what I see in a notebook.  But the entries I’d made were random and seemed to have no connection to each other. At this point, they covered several events of note, mostly political, in Irish history and spanned about twenty-five years. And because I had no desire to write about politics or riots or killings, very few of them were helpful.

So, I began delving more closely into the personal accounts of the Lusitania disaster. With the help of the Google search engine, I’d found several, but most of them were from crew members who’d miraculously survived the sinking. And though these were helpful, what I needed was something more personal. After all, one of my new characters would be directly involved. She would be the young woman I’d seen drowning in the waters.

For about a week afterwards, I’d go through my notebook in the mornings, hoping that something I’d jotted down would give me the kernel I needed for the new story. And then one morning, I had that moment, the one that says, “That’s it. There’s your story!”

I grabbed my highlighter—the green one—and drew a circle around a very short entry I’d made months earlier about a tiny town in Ireland becoming famous as the site of an international GeoPark. I’d been to the town and I’d seen the wondrous caves, the underground lakes, and the natural stone carvings first hand. And because I knew the town so well, I was quite comfortable installing my new characters as residents.

The now-tattered, lime green notebook had served its purpose. A book was being born, slowly but surely.
Joy Ross Davis is of Irish descent and a student of the lore and magic found in the hills of Tennessee. After a twenty-five year career as a college English professor, she traveled to Ireland and worked as a writer and photographer, publishing numerous travel articles and photos for an Irish travel agency. She has been a contributing feature writer for a local newspaper and has published articles in Southern literary magazines. She lives in Alabama with her son and beloved dogs. She loves to speak at conferences, book club meetings, and events to share her connection with angels and the stories behind her books. Contact her on Twitter @joyrossdavis or Facebook.  Check out her boards on Pinterest  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Can You Only Imagine?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

This week, I saw the excellent movie, I Can Only Imagine. It is the story of the writer and performer of the song of the same title. It is also about Bart Millard's, MercyMe's singer/songwriter, inspiration for the song. Quite literally, it is a David and Goliath story, with a twist. The songwriter learns forgiveness for his childhood monster, which includes his own personal Goliath, his father. Bart also witnesses his father’s redemption, a powerful message indeed.

In Bart’s story, there are 2 people highlighted who helped him along the way. One of them, an gifted music teacher in a small rural town, saw his talent when he didn’t even know he could sing. Another is a famous singer who unselfishly gave him back his song. These two individuals gave him their help which ultimately made Bart, and MercyMe, a success. This isn’t just a movie about Bart’s story. It’s also a movie about being in the right place, doing the right thing to help someone else’s dreams come true. It’s a theme we at Southern Writers Magazine, and especially this blog, believe in wholeheartedly. There’s a lesson in his story for us all. Giving your support to others, showing kindness and doing the right thing will ultimately lead to your own success. 

Author, Claire Fullerton has this philosophy, too. She writes amazing reviews of other authors books, all while writing her own books. She then shares these reviews on all her social media sites. She’s an author who is also a supporter and giver to other authors, and to her readers. 

My first introduction to Claire’s, Millie & Finley characters was in November 2016 in this short Christmas piece titled, A Place In The World, free to read at this linkClaire gave to readers a snippet of her characters at the The Dead Mule Society website. These characters have occupied a corner of my mind ever since 2016. I think of them from time to time, craving more of their story. Her third book Mourning Dove, with Millie & Finley’s story, releases in June. Well done, Claire Fullerton you have helped fellow authors and pre-marketed your book by introducing these memorable characters two years before the book releases. 

It costs nothing to help another author. Just show your kindness for a fellow author. Write a book review for a fellow author and watch your own success occur. In the comments, please share a book review you’ve written for a fellow author. If you’re a reader writing a review will help authors to stay motivated to continue honing their craft. Then, share it on your own social media links. 

You could even share this blog post which will include all the comments. Authors will appreciate your support, and readers will love finding out about your memorable characters and new books they can read. 

Success can occur if “YOU Can Only Imagine?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giving Your Fiction A Subtle Touch

By T.K. Thorne

“Don’t give too much information” is one of the tenets of “good” fiction writing, i.e., writing that avoids the slush pile. A positive way to phrase this is—write subtly.

     An unsubtle MS will have an inflated feel—inflated with superfluous words, phrases, dialogue, and scenes that are far too long.
     Less is more; Leave some things unsaid; be a minimalist.
     If you underestimate your reader, you alienate him/her.
     Discipline yourself to withhold information.
     Embrace confusion; leave a little mystery.

But now we are back to the dilemma—how much is too much and how do you know when to stop? For some people, that skill comes naturally, but others struggle with it. Recently, I was reading over my latest novel manuscript and decided I wanted to drop some back story in the first chapter of book three. Backstory is always risky because too much can pull the reader out of the story world. They “hear” the author “filling them in.”

Setup: Rose, a police detective, responds to a homicide scene where a construction worker has fallen seven stories to his death. She looks at the body and hopes she isn’t going to get sick. Insert: “The only time I’ve been sick at the sight of a dead body was the night I had my first vision, a glimpse of the future that made me fire two bullets into a man’s back.”

Works.  Why? 

1. It’s relevant and fits the context. It’s a natural thought proceeding from her hope that she won’t get sick.
2. It doesn’t give too much information. It leaves the reader with questions—Why did she shoot a man in the back? Why wasn’t she fired or convicted of murder?
3. It adds to plot or character. We now know that Rose had a traumatic incident in her past and that bodies don’t usually make her nauseous. Important stuff.

What if Rose looked at the body and thought instead: “This reminds me of the time when I had a few drinks with Harry and got sick all over the floor.”

It’s shorter, so “too much” is not really a question of how many words you use. This version also flows from her thinking about getting sick, but it is too much information, because–who cares if she got sick drinking with Henry? It is not important to the story and adds nothing to the plot or character development. Unless it is an important part of her character that her mind wanders willy-nilly, it pulls the reader out of the story narrative.

Not every piece of narrative has to do all three of these things, but if you have a suspicious piece of writing, analyze it to make sure it is (1) relevant and in context, (2) leaves questions open, and/or (3) adds to the plot and character.
T.K.Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district as the executive director before retiring again to write full time. T.K. speaks on life lessons--how she accidentally became a police officer, didn't end up in a space capsule, and tackled historical novels about unnamed women in two of the oldest and most famous stories on earth, as well as writing a book from the case investigators' perspectives about solving the most infamous church bombing in Civil Rights history. Her writing has garnered several awards, including ForeWord Review Magazine's 2009 "Book of the Year" for Historical Fiction for her debut novel, NOAH'S WIFE. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE which details the investigation of the 1963 Sixteenth Street church bombing case. Rave reviews have followed her newest novel about the unnamed wife of Lot, ANGELS AT THE GATE, which won the IBPA's Benjamin Franklin Award for historical fiction and an IPPY award. Her screenplay in the film "Six Blocks Wide" was a semi-finalist at the international "A Film for Peace Festival" in Italy. Her website is, where you can read more about her books and sign up for a Newsletter with inside info on her research and adventures. She blogs there, as well, and loves to hear from readers. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.